5 Most Common Publishing Deals

Written by: Korie Burton | Muscle Shoals Song Rooms Intern 2020

October 30, 2020

As a songwriter, we all have a similar goal: get a publishing deal. Whether you’re looking to stay independent or sign as a major label writer, there are certain publishing deals you should know about going into this business in order to get your songs where you want them to go. We’ll start with the most basic and go from there….

  1. Single Song Agreement – Single Song Agreements are contracts made between a publisher and a songwriter for one song, and one song only. The publisher will more likely than not obtain all of the publishing for this particular song, but you as the writer (or co-writers) will keep your writer’s share. Songwriters will typically enter into this type of contract if a song is pitched to a publisher, and the publisher believes an artist who is currently on the lookout for songs would want to record it, or if they believe it could be good for a sync opportunity. These kinds of contracts are good for any songwriter because it means your song could be getting pitched to artists and sync by a reputable source that can get you into places you couldn’t get yourself. Even if you want to stay independent and keep your publishing, signing a single song agreement for one composition could help to get your foot in the door as a writer.
  2. Exclusive Publishing Deal – Exclusive Publishing Deals are the types of deals most of us think of when we think “Pub Deal.” As a beginning writer, this contract will most likely sign away the publishing rights to any and all compositions you write for the term of the contract. As a staff writer, it will be your job to turn in x amount of songs per week/month/year. You may have some leniency as to who you can write with, but your publisher wants HITS, so they’re going to try to get you into rooms with other rising or professional songwriters and artists. There is a lot of good to this kind of contract. For one, you have someone to do your admin work for you and make sure you’re getting PAID; you also have a reputable name pitching songs on your behalf to get those songs to people and places you may not be able to get them alone. However, an exclusive deal for a beginning writer does typically mean you sign away all of the publishing rights to your songs. This is so that the publisher can also make money and recoup the advances they pay you. (Another plus is YES; you can get advances!). The cons to this deal are a small price to pay for some in order to jump start their careers.
  3. Administration Deal – An admin deal would be a great option for a writer looking to stay independent. You’ll be in charge of who and when you write, as well as where the songs are getting pitched, but in this deal, you have someone to help you with all of the administrative work; This means licensing, registering, and all the “fun stuff” us songwriters don’t really like to deal with. Typically, an administrative publisher will only claim a percentage of your publishing, maybe 10-20%, in order to make their share of income. These terms would be laid out in the contract. A songwriter would also probably need to have their feet under them with some substantial cuts and a proven record of generating income in order to sign one of these deals.
  4. Foreign Sub-Publishing Agreement – This type of agreement would be important to obtain if your music is having success in countries other than the one where you reside. For example, let’s say you’re a US citizen with a US publishing deal, but your music is BOOMING in Australia. A sub- publishing agreement with a publisher in Australia would help you to collect all of the royalties being generated there, that a publisher in the US may not be able to collect. The foreign publisher will administer your songs in their country for a percentage of your publishing share. This type of agreement resembles an administrative deal but is for the overseas sharing of music. With streaming being the main source of music intake these days, anyone from anywhere in the world can hear your music; this type of deal is becoming more and more important as streaming takes up more of the marketplace.
  5. Co-Publishing Deals – Co-Publishing deals are typically signed by writers who want the benefits of an exclusive deal, but don’t want to sign away all of their publishing rights. It is very hard, if not impossible, for a beginning writer to enter into this type of deal. However, it is important to know that it exists in case you have the track record going into the contract to negotiate it; Typically, someone who has had a lot of prior success is more likely to enter into a co-pub deal. This deal is pretty simple: You keep all of your writer’s share AND a portion of your publishing (typically 50%), while your publisher obtains the other 50% of the publishing share. This deal is great because you get the big names pitching your songs, and someone to do your administrative work, while still collecting some of those publishing royalties.There you have it! Four different publishing deals that you as a writer should know about before signing ANY contract. It is also important to note that these are just outlines. Any terms in a contract can and will probably be negotiated before signing. It is SO important for a writer to know their rights and to read (and have a lawyer read) a contract before agreement/signing.